Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.

 

We are Moana

image

I must confess, the movie Moana ignited a bit of inspiration. There may have been a few times I pulled out my phone to take notes for this exact moment of sharing my thoughts with you. I’m laughing at myself, but at the same time I must embrace it. I think we can and should find inspiration wherever and however we can.

The day before, the subject of life journeys was planted during a bible study, so it was already somewhat on my mind. We discussed  Mary’s journey to be exact.  Yes, I know Christmas is over…but we are a group of busy moms who get behind from time to time. That is much the norm in the journey of motherhood.  Things never play out exactly as we have set out in our minds. There are more bumps and bruises than we ever thought possible.

Anyway, I enjoy making parallels between peoples lives. It allows me to feel connected. It helps me to see how even we really are. Although Moana is a fictional character in a fictional plot…the core of the story (not the entirety of it) is powerful and relatable in our ordinary lives.

The following may seem to be quite the stretch and in a way it is, but this is truly a glimpse into my over-thinking head and how it functions. No, this movie was not biblical. There are just parallels I decided to point out. Was there worldly thinking scattered throughout this movie?  Yes, of course there was. Just as there is worldly thinking scattered in my own mind. It wasn’t a Christian film. But despite that being obvious to most, I feel it actually is important to point this out. At the end of the day, I want you to know our power comes from God, not ourselves as the world will try to tell us. That point is by far more important than anything else I am about to say…

The water chose Moana to embark on a journey to save her people. God calls us to do the same. She felt a pull in her do be doing something more-something different than what her little world was telling her to. One time she went into the sea like she thought she should and it ended in disaster. It left her feeling lost and confused. It was because it wasn’t the right time, she needed to know more. She simply was not ready.

When the time was right, she knew it. She got into her boat and off she went. She felt brave, encouraged, and empowered. Then, things got messy. We all know how messy life gets, even when we are doing the right thing. Can I get an “Amen”?

Her boat flipped.  She got tired and scared.  She got angry and yelled at the water (just as we do to God). The water would gently pick her back up and placed her back on the boat when she went overboard. The water picked her back up…but did not make her journey easier.

Moana made it to Maui and was disappointed. He was not what she was expecting. He was not the hero she envisioned. How many times have we felt the same. Maui doubted the water and even asked why the water couldn’t bring the heart back itself. Many in this world ask the same sort of questions about God.

There was even a point where Moana tried giving the heart back to the water. She went back down and got it. The rough waters didn’t calm because she decided to carry on. Maui didn’t magically become easier to deal with. Why did she do it? Nothing could silence the voice inside her. Nothing can silence the voice inside any of us. Sometimes we need to work on how to hear it. Sometimes we choose to ignore it.

God will never force us to answer His call. It is out of His love for us that He doesn’t use force. It is hard to wrap our heads around it…I know. He doesn’t calm the waters of life. But He is always there with us. Always.

You see, I am Moana. We all are. We are called, in our own unique way, to restore the heart of the Lava Monsters who have had their hearts stolen by the world. One difference (and there are more) is that we are still on our journeys. Our happy ending is yet to come.

The Fickleness of Life

image

I took this picture as I was driving one evening. It was New Years Eve to be exact. I know it was a bit risky, but there was something about the sky that night.  It was in the clouds, the sun setting, and it was my contemplative mood. Maybe it was in my contemplative mood that made the sky more beautiful than usual.  Though still, when I look at this picture I am drawn to it.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I would go for drives out in the country when my mind was weary.  I remember some of the moments that led me to grab my keys and go. They were all moments that grew me as a person. Moments I wouldn’t want to relive, but also moments I wouldn’t want to take back.

Nowadays, with kids, seldom do I find solace in the car.  I use it as a time to connect and reconnect.  We talk sometimes about life and faith. I turn up the tunes and jam with my kids. I listen to them converse with each other. We play I Spy. It is fun. Peaceful?  Not so much.

I no longer have the freedom to take off as I please.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.  It is yet another sacrifice I am willing to make as a parent.

I will get my car rides back some day.  The peace and quiet…the scenery will soothe my weary mind. I will think of my car rides with the boys. I will hear the loudness and feel the chaos in my mind. It will then be those car rides I miss.

Funny how fickle we are.

 

Soon You’ll be Forty Years Old…

DSC_0157Matthew,

I cannot believe your fortieth birthday is next week.  When I think of when we first met and then think of our life now it amazes me. I think of all the years in between…everything we’ve been through…wow.  We really are doing this. We really are continuously building a life together, for better or worse. I think we have seen both.  It is inevitable there will be good times and bad.  Life. That is life.

I remember our early days of flirting by tossing pumpkin guts (Is that what you call it?) at each other. Who would’ve thought after all these years that we’d be married with two kids? I’ll never forget the summer we spent at the beach.  We pretty much lived moment to moment.  I won’t share all our memories on here, but those are just a couple that I go back to when life gets crazy.

All I know is that there is no one else on earth who knows me and loves me like you do. Anytime you ask me to write a blog or remind me I haven’t in a while, I am reminded how much you care about me. You are a good person, Matt.  Don’t you ever forget that.

Time seems to speed up the older we get, it really does. It will seem as only a few moments have passed before I am thinking, soon I’ll be forty years old. I don’t like to think about myself as being forty, but as long as you are by my side I will be just fine.

Before we know it, our kids will be grown and forty will seem young.  I cannot wait to see you as a grandfather. Heck, maybe we will even have a granddaughter. How weird would that be to have a girl in our life?

Oh my and then before we know it, we will retire. I’m seeing us as snowbirds for sure.  A nice condo on a beach somewhere? We’ll be walking along the beach and I will turn to you and say, “My dear, soon you’ll be seventy years old.  Where did the time go?” You will lean down, kiss my forehead and say, “I don’t know, babe. Did I take me medicine this morning?”

XOXO

These Two Faces

DSC_0159.jpg

If you ask why I do certain things, then just look at these two faces. If you ask why I don’t do certain things, then just look at these two faces. Becoming a parent has made me more selfless than ever before. It has brought out a side of me I never knew existed. Parts of me that had lain dormant since my own childhood have reemerged. These two have brought me more life and joy than I can ever describe.

When either of them tell me I am the best mom ever, I know without a doubt they actually believe it. That is why I will never stop trying to live up to those words. Yes, I forgive myself when I mess up. I use those as teachable moments to let them know to forgive themselves as well when they mess up. I brush off my mistake and try try again. It is all a part of the deep love I have for them.

If anything, I pray my kids will look back on their childhood and know I never gave up on them…

As of late, we have gotten swept up in the busyness of life. It shows it every detail of our family life. I think we all realized it last week, even my four-year-old. This past Friday, Matt took Oliver up to his family’s cabin for the night. I decided to have a date night with Luke. It seriously could not have come at a better time. We all needed it. It was a reminder of how much we need to do that more often.

So it is with life. We must stop and take breaks before life gets the best of us. I tell my kids that all the time. They don’t totally get it yet, but hopefully they will one day.

Anyway, these two faces are why I have more peace in life. God gave me them to open my eyes to what life is suppose to be about. Guess what? Life is not about me. It isn’t about you, either. It is not about winning an argument. It is not about outwitting someone. It is definitely not about competing or one-upping anyone.

Life is about loving God. It is about the love you hold for others. It is about what happens as a result of the love you hold. Ain’t nobody got time for anything else…at least I know I don’t. (Yes, I know ain’t is not a word.)

This World Needs You, Oliver.

DSC_0591

We went to a birthday party last night. Oliver wasn’t feeling the party.  We walked in the house, he looked around to the many unknown faces, and plopped right on my lap.  I kissed the top of his head and he gave me his ‘I’m peopled out’ look. I whispered in his ear that it was okay.  Everyone kept asking if he was okay.  It made him cling to me more.  I started to feel self-conscious for him. I began to worry even though my instinct told me what was really going on.

So I whispered in his ear, “Sweetie, are you okay?  Do you feel okay?”

“Yes, Mommy,” he replied.

People kept staring at him, I kid you not, like there was something seriously wrong because he was not running and yelling like the rest of the kids. I almost spoke up, but sometimes it isn’t worth it.  But maybe I should have. I think I will next time.

Oliver is one of the most content people I know. He is laid back. He entertains himself and never complains he is bored. When he is comfortable with you, he is the funniest kid you’d ever meet. He lightens the tone in our house like no other. He isn’t shy and is FAR from being an insecure kid. He just doesn’t need or like to be center of attention.  He is an observer. He easily points things out about people that most young four year olds would never notice. He’s loud and he is quiet.  He is goofy and reserved.

He is a creative old soul…just like his mother. He is a story teller who never leaves out a detail.

He would rather know people before he shows himself to them.  He is selective with whom he does open up to.  I bet it is because he can read people…just like his mother.

He is empathetic. Without saying a word, he feels what I feel. “Mommy, you have a sad look in your eyes.  Don’t be sad, cutie-pie.”  He absorbs others emotions…just like his mother.

I want to raise Oliver knowing it is okay to be the way he is. I don’t want him having to figure that out in his twenties like I did.  My parents loved and accepted me and I was okay with myself…I just didn’t know what being an introvert was.  Back then, people didn’t use the term. The first time I read what it was, I felt free. I always knew I wasn’t shy.  Because to me, shyness stems from deep insecurities which I never really had. I just never knew how to describe myself and for a thinker and analyzer like me…it was dreadful not to know. Huge HUGE lightbulb moment. I’m an introvert, it all makes sense now!

Oliver will have an advantage I (and many others) never had as a kid.  I will be able to tell him about all the great introverts of the past.  The thinkers, the mercy-driven need to change and help the world doers, the inventors, the creators…those who refused to think inside the box. I don’t want him to feel he has to do what everyone else is doing all the time. I will relate to him when he feels someone in infringing on his individuality. I will be able to tell him, I know exactly how he feels.  I will be able to show him what a gift and what a strength it is.

God made him this way for a reason and I am so glad he did. I feel as though I should mention I love my extroverted son, just the same.  Luke teaches me to see the other side of things. I’m just as glad God made him extroverted. I am in awe in the way He designed my boys.  Luke with his Ocular Albinism needs to have the boldness God gave him. He really does. Oliver, needs all of his strengths and sense of mercy. I already see how Oliver cares for Luke. He watches out for him and he accepts Luke like no one else in this world does. This world needs Oliver, Luke needs Oliver. Oliver needs Luke too. Luke pulls Oliver out of his own mind and shows him the other side of life.

They just fit together, they are the perfect brothers. I am moved to tears thinking of how God made them to be brothers. To think, I was scared to have a second child. Okay, I’m done now. The end!

 

My One Prayer

IMG_5670

Everyone has that one thing they pray for the most. You may never share this prayer with anyone but Him. You may believe it will never be answered or at least answered the way you want it to be.  But still, you want it so badly you continue to pray and sometimes beg or try to negotiate a deal with God. Sometimes, if you are like me, you will feel guilty for continuously praying for this one thing.  Because you know you are blessed and things could always be worse.  But yet, you cannot help but to relentlessly pray for it.

My prayer is for my oldest son, Luke, who has Ocular Albinism. I don’t pray for God to take his Ocular Albinism away.  I do pray for his future and his ability to adapt to this world.  I pray people are kind to him because of his difficulties. I pray he one day falls in love and marries a girl who is strongly rooted in God.  I pray for his future children.

My one prayer, though, is that one day his visual acuity will be enough for him to get a driver’s license. At the end of the day, I know the above prayers should have more priority. I just cannot help it. I want my son to be able to drive. It is my one selfish prayer. I want to one day hand him the keys to my car…or to Matt’s car and say don’t be home too late with tears streaming down my face.  I want to see him roll his eyes and say, “I’ll be fine, Mom. I’m just driving down the street.”  I want Matt to place his hand on my shoulder as he says, “Luke will be just fine”.  That is what I want.

Today, driving home from Luke’s eye doctor appointment, I cried a little like I always do. This time, for the first time, the tears were filled with fragments of hope.  Not a lot of hope, but just enough for me to exhale a sigh of relief. Every single appointment, even the first appointment where Luke was diagnosed, the doctor has mentioned that Luke will probably never be able to drive. It is something he knows bothers parents. He always says he doesn’t want to give parents false hope.  I respect that about him.  It can’t be easy. Today was different. Luke’s vision has improved some. He said it is quite possible Luke’s vision will improve enough where he could possibly be able to get a driver’s license.

It took me about ten minutes to process that. In the parking lot after Matt and I got the kids in the car, he pulled me in for a hug.  Yes, I thought, he really did say what I thought he said. It was the first time I left that place without a knot in my stomach. I explained it to Luke when we got home and we talked a bit about his eye disorder. I had never spoken that in depth about it with him. I felt it was time and at the end I was able to give him a little hope. His reaction told me it was the right time.

Hope and possibility are worth holding tightly to, even when there is still a chance things may not end up to your liking. Sometimes all we have in this life is a little hope. A little hope has to be enough.  It is enough for me.  Thank you, Lord.